3 out of 4 stars
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Bush Blues: The Adventures of Police Chief Snow by Sheldon Schmitt is a novel about the experiences of a police chief in rural Alaska. It can be categorized in the General Fiction genre. As Chief of Police in Togiak, Brady Snow tackles crime with the aid of bush pilots Frank N. Beans and Stanley Beans. In the Alaskan wilderness, the police often travel by small plane to carry out their duties.
There is a murder mystery and light romance along the way, but the crux of the story is the rollicking stream of wacky people and occurrences. Among other happenings, Chief Snow is attacked by a bear after the bush plane he is flying in goes down. After the attack, a small man named Kinka takes him to a cabin and tends to his wounds until the rescue team arrives the next day. Kinka is one of the “Little People,” gnome-like creatures who are thought to be part of the spirit world. To the locals, none of this is out of the ordinary.
The story gets off to a slow start with excessive descriptions of bush flights and the Alaskan terrain. There are numerous eccentric characters introduced throughout the book. They often drink to excess and a few will resort to drinking Lysol for the alcohol content, if traditional liquor is unavailable. It’s difficult to remember who’s who as the characters have offbeat names and sometimes appear in the story for only a short period. That being said, Chief Snow is well drawn as a diligent worker who treats the townspeople with dignity.
What really sets this book apart is the immersion in Alaskan culture, including Yupik expressions and Alaskan folklore. I was instantly transported to this small village for what seemed like an extended stay. However, the plot is disjointed and feels more like a series of individual vignettes. While some parts are absorbing, there isn’t much propelling the story forward. The good news is the plot becomes more cohesive in the latter sections and roars to a thrilling conclusion.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The author’s main intention may have been to showcase the life of a police chief in an interesting region. Still, I would have preferred a stronger plot rather than the continual introduction of new characters and nutty situations. Also, extra editing is needed as I noticed approximately nine errors (incorrect tense, a missing word, lack of possessive form, the wrong last name of a character, etc.). Despite these issues, I was enriched by the beautiful imagery and tidbits about the Alaskan lifestyle. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy escaping to a fascinating setting and culture.
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